Types of Tenancy
Your type of tenancy can affect your rights as a tenant, so it is very important to know what term describes you and your relationship with your landlord. Read through the descriptions below, and, if you still are not sure what type of tenancy you have, contact the Housing Consumer Education Center directly at 413-233-1600.
For Years (Lease)
“For Years” means that you have a lease. A lease is a written statement signed by both the tenant and the landlord, which states that you will rent a unit for a specific period of time.
The landlord must give you a copy of your lease within 30 days of the date you have signed it. The landlord has to sign the lease to execute it. Once you have signed the lease, it is legally binding.
Your lease spells out both your obligations and those of your landlord. Be sure to read your lease carefully before you sign it. Some lease provisions, such as a clause making the tenant responsible for all repairs, are illegal in Massachusetts. If you are not comfortable with a particular provision in the lease, discuss it with your prospective landlord. If you are unsure about the legality of a particular provision, contact the Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) nearest to you for guidance. Any changes to the lease should be initialed by both you and your prospective landlord.
The lease must state the name and address of the landlord (or property manager), the amount of the rent and security deposit you are to pay, and when you are to pay it. The only rent increases that your landlord can require of you during the term of the lease are adjustments based on increases in your landlord’s fuel costs or property taxes, and s/he may only do so if such increases are permitted under special “escalator clauses” that are a part of the lease.
You may also be required to pay for your last month’s rent in advance and the cost of installing a new lock and key. Click here for more information on moving in, including security deposits. (links to “moving in” page)
Some leases are self-extending, which means they will be renewed automatically unless the tenant or landlord gives proper notice that s/he is terminating the lease. Other leases require that you follow certain procedures to renew your tenancy. Read your lease to see what it states about renewal and termination.
At Will (Rental Agreement)
A tenancy-at-will is an agreement to rent an apartment from one rental period to the next (usually month to month). It can be either verbal or in writing. A written rental agreement is almost always preferable for both parties. The main difference between a written tenancy-at-will agreement and a lease is that the tenancy-at-will is not limited to a specific period of time—a beginning and ending date—whereas a lease must include this information.
As a tenant-at-will, you are obligated to pay whatever rent you and your landlord agreed upon. Either party, without the agreement of the other, cannot change the terms of the tenancy. For further details on rent increases, you should contact the Housing Consumer Education Center nearest to you.
A tenancy-at-sufferance is created when a tenant remains in the apartment after the landlord has terminated a lease or tenancy-at-will. A tenant at sufferance still has the right to live in a home that complies with the state sanitary code, and the landlord cannot remove him/her without following due process.